coffee explained

Why Does Coffee Make You Tired And Sleepy


Have you noticed that drinking coffee seems to make you sleepy and lethargic rather than alert? Well, you’re not alone! There are several factors that can cause coffee to have this effect on people. Let’s break them down to discover why you feel this way.

Why Do I Feel Sleepy Even If I Drink Coffee?

Here are some of the reasons that coffee may be making you tired instead of perked up:

Built Up a Tolerance to Caffeine

Do you drink coffee on a regular basis and have been doing so for a while? Maybe you’re a coffee addict who drinks several cups a day. If so, it is possible that you have built up a tolerance to a specific level of caffeine.

So, your body will not react to caffeine as a stimulant and you would not feel the energizing effects of your drink. If you were to drink a cup of coffee when you were feeling fatigued, it is unlikely that you will experience any changes to your mood or body.

You may be able to overcome this by increasing your consumption of coffee during the day. For instance, if you just drink one or two cups, consuming three may help you to get that jolt you’re looking for.

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Of course, you should be aware that too much coffee can have a negative impact on your sleep, particularly if you drink too much or too late in the day.


Did you know that your genes can determine how coffee will impact you? That’s right! What’s more, scientists estimate that around 10 percent of the global population may be genetically disposed to being hyposensitive to caffeine.

This means that coffee doesn’t have any kind of stimulating effect. Thus, if you were to drink coffee while you were tired of sleepy, you would simply continue to feel this way.

As you can imagine, it can be a bit tricky to know whether you fall into this category. However, you may want to consider how the rest of your family reacts to coffee – or caffeine in general.

Does it seem like caffeine doesn’t have much of an effect on them either? If so, it could be that you are some of the few people who are immune!

Caffeine Crash

Another reason that coffee could be making you sleepy is because you’re nearing the end of your caffeine crash. To understand this a little better, let’s take a look at how coffee keeps you alert and awake.

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The first thing you need to know is that adenosine plays a role in your sleep cycle. Throughout the day, your adenosine levels increase. When they are high enough, they cause drowsiness, encouraging you to fall asleep.

Caffeine obstructs this function by binding to the adenosine receptors in your brain. This continues until the caffeine is flushed out of your system.

In the meantime, the adenosine levels don’t drop at all – they continue to increase. However, it doesn’t have an impact on your wakefulness. Once the caffeine wears off, all this adenosine will bind to the receptors, causing you to feel tired very quickly.

If your body is able to get rid of caffeine faster than everyone else, there is a good chance that you may feel these effects sooner.

You are Overtired

At the end of the day, there is a limit to just how much caffeine can energize you. If you are very tired or haven’t gotten enough sleep in a while, then coffee will not be enough to overcome the natural reactions of your body.

Therefore, don’t expect caffeine to have too much of an impact if you are already pretty worn out. In this case, only proper rest and sleep will have you feeling awake again.

Can Caffeine Have the Opposite Effect?

It’s possible that you may feel sleepy or tired shortly after drinking coffee. If so, it is only natural to wonder if coffee has the opposite effect on you.

Well, this could be due to a paradoxical effect. In this instance, caffeine acts like a sedative instead of a stimulant. This is what induces a feeling of fatigue or sleepiness.

This is a rare occurrence and there aren’t too many documented cases of this happening.

Instead, most scientists believe that it is a tolerance to caffeine that causes your sleepiness. If you have built up a tolerance but continue to consume large quantities of caffeine, this may result in a completely different scenario where you become sedated instead of energized.

I Have ADHD – Why Does Caffeine Make Me Sleepy?

If you have been diagnosed with ADHD and have found that caffeine makes you sleepy, you certainly aren’t the only one.

However, is this possible? Can coffee have the opposite effect on people who have been identified as having ADHD?

Well, there has been some research done on how caffeine can affect the cognitive and physical functioning of people with ADHD.

When combined with exercise, caffeine does appear to help. Experts noted that there was an improvement in serotonin and dopamine levels. What’s more, the subjects behaved better as well.

There was some indication that caffeine could help with cognitive faculties as it increased the number of neural connections in the brain.

In some studies, there was a definite improvement in concentration and cognitive abilities in general. It should be noted that in each of these cases, caffeine was always used alongside something else such as exercise or l-theanine.

There was also a lot of discrepancy in these findings. For instance, there were many cases where caffeine had a stimulatory effect on children diagnosed with ADHD. It made their symptoms worse and in some cases disrupted sleep as well.

Nevertheless, there doesn’t appear to be any research done on how caffeine may make certain individuals diagnosed with ADHD sleepy.

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Despite this, of course, there are numerous reports of this occurring. So, it is quite possible that coffee can make you tired or even have a sedation-like effect.

It is important to realize that ADHD can represent quite differently in each person. On top of this, everyone will also react differently to caffeine. As such, it can be quite difficult to know if caffeine will affect you in the same way that it does everyone else.

To get an idea of what caffeine can do to your system, simply monitor how you feel each time you drink coffee. Does it always make you tired or sleepy? Or, does this affect only come on when caffeine is paired with another substance or activity?

How to Stop Feeling Sleepy or Tired After Drinking Coffee?

If you aren’t happy with the effects that coffee has on you, you may want to change things. However, you should be aware that this is only possible if you have built up a tolerance to caffeine.

If you are genetically disposed to being resistant to caffeine or if you’re one of those rare people that experience a paradoxical effect, there is not much you can do. This is simply the way your body responds to caffeine and it can’t be changed.

So, your first order of business is figuring out why caffeine may be making you sleepy. If this is something you have always experienced, it’s probably your natural state.

On the other hand, if you are simply very tired, getting the rest that you need should be enough to reinstate your original reaction to caffeine. This way, you will feel energized by caffeine once this period has passed.

If you do drink coffee at least once a day, and daily, and you have previously been perked up by caffeine, then you will have probably built up a tolerance.

Resetting Your Caffeine Tolerance

If you want to undo your caffeine tolerance – there is only one way to do this – give up coffee temporarily. This will cause your body to reset to its original reaction, allowing caffeine to energize you once more.

Experts agree that it should take you about one week without any caffeine at all to reset your tolerance. Of course, if you want to be on the safe side and not undo all your hard work, you may want to skip the caffeine for a little longer, perhaps two weeks or so.

When giving up caffeine, there are two ways of going about this. The first is where you give up coffee gradually, slowly reducing how much you drink over a longer period of time – around several weeks.

The second involves going turkey and giving up caffeine completely for about a week or so without any transition period. The benefit of this, of course, is that you can reset your system more quickly and go back to drinking coffee just as fast.

There is a problem with going cold turkey, however. If you drink enough coffee to build up a tolerance, it means that your body has gotten used to both the caffeine as well as the effects that it provides you with.

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As a result, when you cut your body off from this source, there is a greater risk of experiencing withdrawal symptoms. This involves headaches, lethargy, inability to concentrate, and even irritability. This can last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks.

If you would like to opt for the less painful route, here is how you can go about it:

Start by halving your coffee consumption for the first few days or week. Once you are comfortable with this, cut down your intake by half again. Continue this way until you have given up coffee completely. Within a week or so, your tolerance will be back down.

Keep in mind that caffeine isn’t just found in coffee. It is also present in tea, chocolate, and various energy drinks. So, it stands to reason that when cutting down on your intake of coffee – or even going cold turkey – you will need to avoid these foods or beverages as well.

Once you have reset your tolerance, you can’t just go back to drinking the same amount of coffee as you did. If you do, you will regain your earlier tolerance in a matter of days. Then, you will be right back to where you started.

Instead, start by introducing small amounts of coffee back into your diet. The less of it that you can consume, the better. Keep in mind, you will eventually build up a tolerance to this as well, which means that you will have to increase your consumption after a while.

To avoid having to increase your consumption too much, start by increasing your caffeine intake very slowly. Once again, be mindful of other caffeine sources as well. It is best to continue to cut these out completely.

How to Feel Awake and Energized Without Caffeine

Although you may have become dependent on caffeine for energy, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t other ways to get a natural boost.

Exercise is often a great way to raise your energy levels as long as you are consistent with it. Go ahead and start walking, running, swimming, or hitting the gym. In a few weeks, you are sure to feel a lot better.

Eating healthy is also a good avenue. Cut out processed, sodium-heavy, and fatty foods and replace it with lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. In addition to providing you with energy, these foods will reduce the risk of any food-related fatigue or crashes as well.

Finally, try to get more sleep. Make sure that you are getting at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep a day. Even if you can’t manage this at a stretch, try to take naps in between to make up for it. Keep your naps short and you will wake up feeling refreshed.

To wrap things up, this is your explanation for why coffee may be making you feel tired and sleepy. It may sound unlikely, but you also know how to reverse the effects, if you want to.

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About the author


Samuel is a coffee lover and a writer. He's travelled extensively throughout Southeast Asia and has soaked up the sun, the culture, and of course - the coffee. He loves to write about his experiences, and he hopes to travel even more in the future.

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